Updated January 24, 2019
Whether you enjoy participating in cruise ship games or you're just hoping to watch from the stands, there are some interesting choices on the high seas. From standard belly flop contests to adult scavenger hunts that routinely end with men wearing bras and lipstick, you're sure to find something that will intrigue you, make you laugh or at least help you while away some time on those pesky sea days. Check out this list of cruise games that will make you feel like a kid again.
Unless otherwise noted, you'll find many of these cruise ship games on most mainstream cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian. Some of the tamer ones are also found on Princess, Celebrity and Holland America ships. Check your ship's daily planner for dates and times.
1. Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts are a great way to mingle with other cruisers as you divide into teams. The family-friendly versions of these events will have you hustling from deck to deck to find items on a given list: someone wearing a sports team logo, a "reserved" deck chair, a plaque from your ship's very first port of call. (Don't forget to document said items with photographic proof that you've actually located them.) Several lines spice up the traditional scavenger hunt by making their version less family-friendly. Teams of adults, limited to the resources they have in their possession at the time, must do things like gather as many pairs of shoes as possible, convince a man to wear lipstick, take off their pants, grind up against the cruise director or find someone with a piercing that's not in his or her ears.
Read more about the Quest Game Show on Royal Caribbean.
2. Marriage Games
Although they might fall under different names, these types of games are staples on most mainstream cruises. They aim to find out just how well husbands know their wives and vice versa, via a series of questions, all for the audience's amusement. Usually the game's organizer chooses three couples: the one that was most recently married, the one that's been married the longest and a third one that's somewhere in between. It's hilarious to see exactly how long the honeymoon lasts for the newlyweds once they're on stage, and it's equally amusing to watch a man who, after 50+ years of marriage, can't even wager a guess at his wife's bra size.
Check out the best cruise lines for couples.
3. Pool Deck Contests
Calling all furry, big-bellied, boney-legged cruisers: This one's for you. Routinely offered in and around the pool on warm-weather sailings, these face-offs generally involve passengers competing to see who has the hairiest chest, the knobbiest knees and the most impressive belly flop (read: the one who makes the biggest splash). These competitions never fail to draw crowds, which is ideal since the events are judged according to which participant generates the loudest cheers. These pursuits offer a perfect excuse to act silly.
Find out more about what to expect from cruise ship pools.
4. Hasbro, The Game Show
This Carnival Cruise Line exclusive chooses teams of kids and parents to play larger-than-life versions of popular kids' games on stage. The catch, though, is that each game has a twist. For example, the giant version of Yahtzee involves bowling, and Connect Four, while retaining its original goal of getting four in a row, has been turned into something that resembles basketball. Operation, Simon and Scattergories are other games that have been adapted for this event. Winners take home Hasbro board games as prizes. If chosen, you might end up competing alongside children, and the antics that ensue will make you feel like one of them.
Learn more about how to play Hasbro, The Game Show.
5. Battle of the Sexes
Which is the superior gender? Although this age-old question will never be definitively answered, it sure is fun to try. Featured on many cruise ships, this head-to-head battle of wits and skill can take the form of gender-based questions about the opposite sex, or it can be set up as a series of physical tasks. Although the question-based version is a blast, nothing compares to watching teams of all-male and all-female fellow passengers attempt to pop balloons against each other's bodies without using their hands or carry pens between their butt cheeks before dropping them into buckets. (Honestly, any suitable public activity that involves people using their butts is a winner if you want to bring out your inner kidult.)
On most mainstream cruise ships, trivia is offered at least once a day, but usually more frequently. We've seen topics range from "Who said it?" quotes to "Name that television show theme song," with audio clues given. While the average version of daily trivia might not leave you feeling like a youngster, we did once participate in an interesting game of Harry Potter-themed trivia, which involved dividing passengers into houses to compete for the House Cup. The questions were given in rounds to each team, and they increased in difficulty as the game progressed.
Test your knowledge of cruising trivia and terms.
7. Sports Competitions
Mini-golf. Basketball. Surfing. If you're an athletic traveler, there's no shortage of competitive cruise ship games that will keep you active. Ships with mini-golf courses and basketball courts will often hold putt-putt competitions and free-throw tournaments. Surfing, however, is exclusive to Royal Caribbean, which offers open surfing and boogie-boarding times throughout each sailing on ships that have the FlowRider surf simulator. Passengers will often compete against one another to see who can stay upright the longest. No matter how you cut it, there's just so much childlike fun to be had while hitting a colorful ball with a stick or watching others wipe out as they try to surf.
Want to know more? Read all about surfing on a cruise ship.
8. Gaming Contests
From Dance Dance Revolution dance-offs in the arcade to Wii tournaments in the atrium for all to see, if you're a gamer who wants to geek out while handing your adversary his or her rear end, you can do it on a cruise. If you're not the most adept at video games, not to worry. You can also try your hand at games like air hockey, Skee-Ball and claw games that let you win everything from stuffed toys to expensive prizes. If you're on the introverted side, what's enticing about this option is you won't have an audience unless you want one. Games on some ships will even spit out tickets to reward you for a stellar performance. You can then trade them in for cheesy kiddie prizes like whistles and erasers -- perfect souvenirs for the people at home (or not).
Check out photos of Norwegian Dawn's video arcade.
9. Singing Competitions
As far as cruise ship nightlife is concerned, karaoke is king. Most lines offer it, and whether you can belt out a tune with the best of 'em or sound like a dying horse when you try, a memorable performance can make you an instant onboard celebrity. A handful of lines host open karaoke, as well as contests. The latter usually draws large crowds as the competition heats up. Kicking the singing experience up a notch is Princess Cruises, which features "The Voice of the Ocean," a singing competition where participants perform for a panel of judges, who choose contestants blindly, solely on the quality of their voices. Judges then provide coaching, and a winner is chosen by the audience following a final performance. If you want to feel like a kid again, there's no better way to do it than to sing like nobody's watching -- even though lots of people probably will be.
Can't get enough of singing at sea? Have a look at the evolution of cruise karaoke.